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Article 2nd May 2024 Newmarket

By Ben Cox

Trainer Christopher Head has revealed that French sporting superstars Thierry Henry and Tony Parker will be cheering his QIPCO 1000 Guineas contender Ramatuelle on at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile on Sunday.

Head hopes to become the third generation of his family to train a winner of the fillies’ Classic after his grandfather Alec, who died in 2022 aged 97, landed the 1957 renewal with Rose Royale while his aunt Criquette saddled four winners in Ma Biche (1983), Ravinella (1988), Hatoof (1992) and Special Duty (2010). Ma Biche was partnered to victory by Head’s father Freddy, who also enjoyed success in the Classic aboard the great Miesque (1987).       

On Sunday, Head will be represented in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas by Ramatuelle who, like red-hot QIPCO 2000 Guineas favourite City Of Troy, is out of 2018 US Triple Crown winner Justify. Having won three of her five starts in 2023, headed by success in the Group Two Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly, she also went down narrowly in Group One company, when the short-neck runner-up to the colt Vandeek in the Prix Morny at Deauville.       

This season, she made her comeback in the Group Three Prix Imprudence at Deauville last month, when she was the half-length runner-up to Romantic Style.

Speaking from his base in Chantilly on a call hosted by QIPCO British Champions Series and The Jockey Club, Head said today: “We are preparing Ramatuelle 100 per cent for the Guineas. She is very well and came out of her first run of the season in good form.

“As we discussed plans last year, we thought she had the profile for the Guineas and it would be best to wait until next season with her.

“She is a filly with a lot of energy, so it was good to give her a prep run. We are really happy with her right now.

“She has a strong heart. On her comeback at Deauville, it was very heavy ground and she still stayed on well and finished her race, which was a good Guineas trial.

“She is also strong mentally and easy to deal with, so travelling is not a problem. When we come to England or Ireland, we come with a sense of humility as we are up against the best horses and trainers in Europe on different racetracks.

“We think there is something special about this filly and that Newmarket will suit her, although we can’t be 100 per cent sure. Of course, this is my first Guineas, but from what I see in the morning and her profile, I have the feeling Newmarket should suit her. The start of the race is important and I think she will be up there in the early stages. Her jockey Aurelien Lemaitre has ridden there before and knows the filly well, which is a great advantage.

“She was really precocious from the start and Justify is clearly a tremendous stallion in the making and showing a lot of quality – I am lucky to be training some of his progeny.  He made a great start and it is great to see his progeny progressing at two and three. I hope we can show it is possible to be as precocious as she was last year and go on to be a three-year-old.  She will travel over on Saturday and stay overnight in Newmarket.”  

One of Ramatuelle’s owners is NBA legend Tony Parker, who will be visiting Newmarket with another sporting legend in Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal forward who was part of the French national team’s 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship winning sides.

Head went on: “Having Tony Parker as part of the circle is something special. The eye that he has from his career and his winning attitude all helps us and it is a pleasure to have him around. I have not had the luck of talking to Thierry Henry yet and will meet him for the first time on Sunday. I can’t wait, it’s really going to be something.

“What I love about being a trainer is that you have access to people who have had a lot of success in life and Tony knows all about being part of a team and how to get the best from people. He is an athlete and I’m training athletes – he has always been a very good adviser.”

On coming from such a famous racing family, the trainer added: “I have big shoes to fill but it comes with a lot of advantages.

“It’s important to have your own personality – I am not training like my grandfather, my father or my aunt. There is heritage there and I hope I am not going to make a black mark on my family!

“We have been trying to hit expectations with the stable and make it work, with the horses giving 100 per cent. I am a Head but still want to be myself. Every trainer is different – my aunt and father have both been great mentors and still help me when I have to make decisions although they do not interfere.”

Head clearly holds British racing in the highest esteem and admits Classic success on Sunday would be something very special.

He concluded: “It would be really something to win the Guineas. Winning in the UK is an objective for any French trainer as it is where horseracing is most important. The atmosphere at your racetracks is just tremendous. I never felt anything like when we won with Big Rock last year in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot - it was something special and I will come to the UK every year when I have the right horses.”

The QIPCO 1000 Guineas is the second race in the QIPCO British Champions Series.


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